Saturday, June 29, 2013

Photos are Not Always What They Seem

David Trullo/A True History-Alterhistory
While sorting through images depicting men in relationships, I almost passed by this one without a second thought. The picture does not add anything to my collection: there are hundreds of pictures of young men wearing military uniforms that are holding hands. There are scores of images of men from the World War I era.

I expanded the picture to look a little closer at the details. Enlarged, the picture takes on a surreal quality. The lighting and tones are a little off and lends an artificial quality to the image. Something doesn't seem quite right.

This is, of course, because there is something that is not right about the image. There is something unreal about it.

The components of the image are real. Each of the two young boys in uniform existed at some point in history. The background is a real place that once existed.

An artist, named David Trullo, collected pictures similar to the ones I have, manipulated and altered them, and created an alternative history that did not actually happen. While the boys and background were at one time real, they were never real together at the same time.

In his artist's statement, Trullo writes

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, photography had all the status of a legal and historic document. It was often the case that whatever was photographed became ‘true' – ‘the camera never lies' – and whatever appeared on a photographic negative was automatically ‘real'. 
Yet even from its earliest years photography was also used to simulate truth and to apportion a reality where no reality existed. By the same token, whatever was not photographed did not exist as the proof of its existence was nowhere documented. From time to time we come across old photographs which evidently reveal affection between two men or two women. We can only speculate whether the relationship between the subjects is one of friendship or of kinship. In these ‘orphan' photos – for often there is no one to claim them, to explain them – we lack sufficient evidence to suggest a sentimental relationship. In old family albums there are, of course, no photos of gay marriages – understandable, given that such marriages were prohibited or even punished by law – but there were sometimes ‘equivalent relationships' hidden in those ambiguous images. 
The project Alterhistory (an alternative history of photography) uses these same instruments of manipulation to construct a series of ‘real' images of events which never occurred, although they did ‘exist'. Using a variety of images from the pre-digital age of photography, suitably altered, Alterhistory relates a facet of the history of photography which never actually occurred. It offers a tribute to all of those who have had to hide the truth and whose real lives were condemned to be forgotten.

David Trullo/A True History-Alterhistory

It's interesting how Trullo's art has filtered through the internet, being reblogged and pinned countless times by people struck by the images vintage depictions of same sex love. The images aren't real -- but do speak to the invisible realness of same-sex desire in another historical era. 

In a time when men and women could freely touch each other, hold hands, and share intimacy, countless men and women lived out their lives with their same sex loves. Many (though not all) of their relationships have been lost to history.

David does a great job manipulating what we see to remind us what is unseen. His work also reminds us that we all need to do a better job looking at images and taking the time to look deeply at them and explore our own projections of our current desires and wishes onto the past. 

To see all the images from this collection, visit David Trullo's website. 

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their DogAdam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

David Trullo Editions: 'Metamorphoses' from David Trullo on Vimeo.
Edition of 15 illustrations for Ovid's Metamorphoses, 2011

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